Future threats to our health and food security are likely from existing and emerging pests and diseases. Whilst we need our quarantine systems to be vigilant, we can do more with even more aid for ‘One Health’ initiatives, maintaining animal, plant, environmental and human health.
This is the key message of the Hon John Anderson AO, Chair of the Crawford Fund, in his presentation to the Australian Institute of International Affairs event “One Region, One Health: Limiting threats to food and health security“. The Fund is an NGO that engages Australians to train developing country scientists and farmers to improve food and nutrition security.
Mr Anderson is part of a free online panel with Dr Stephanie Williams, Australia’s Ambassador for Regional Health Security, and Dr Anna Okello, Research Program Manager of Livestock Systems, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) from 6pm on 17 September.
“The ‘One Health’ approach is gaining traction as it enables the collaboration needed across human, animal, plant and environmental health systems, working at the local, regional, national, and global levels.”
“One of Australia’s greatest strengths is in agricultural research. If you combine a proper understanding of the health of the environment, health of farming systems, and the health of human beings, Australia can really punch well above its weight with our limited aid dollars.”
“It makes sense for Australia to invest even more in research as carried out by ACIAR and in the work of the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security to cover the overlap of agriculture with health and the environment, whilst at the same time helping protect Australia from emerging diseases – a win-win for Australia and our neighbours,” he said.
“Early assessments of the impact of Covid-19 report disruption to food and input distribution systems caused by lockdowns in-country, export bans and slowed import clearance, with immediate resultant increased hunger and food shortages. The negative impacts on food and nutrition security are particularly felt by vulnerable populations including children, women, the elderly, and the poor,” he said.
He noted the present focus on ‘One Health,’ which recognises the interconnection between people, animals and plants, needs to expand and focus more on interactions between these and the environment.
“Agriculture is at the critical interface of food, health and the environment and is an obvious place from which to work. Australia’s agricultural aid to our neighbours, which brings a benefit to Australian agriculture of $10 for every dollar spent, could deepen its benefit to our neighbours and to us with more funding for an integrated focus on health, agriculture, food and environment,” he concluded.